Nationality, friend's references and online content often determine the doctor UAE-residents opt for. But does this lead to best treatment?
If you have an ailment, and you are in a country other than your home country and you need a doctor. What do you do? You search online, but search results in a long list of possibilities. How do you decide which doctor is best for you?
The situation is characteristic for the UAE. With up to 90 per cent of the population having their roots somewhere else, and with an extended database of heathcare facilities available, selecting the right doctor is not an easy task.
"Selecting the right doctor has become a highly emotional decision for expats in the UAE," thinks John T. Michael, managing director of Caduceus Lane, a health care marketing company. "Rather than being well-informed, people go for what they feel most comfortable with."
People are also comfortable with doctors of their own nationalities.
When it comes to health –either your own or that of a spouse- people, are careful to make a decision. "It is not like shopping; where you can return the item or opt for a different one a second time when a purchase was unsuccessful," notes John.
"Yet, the source of reference that people tend to use is often subject to misconceptions."
Often, people are ill-informed, thinks John.
"There is a lot of wrong information out there. People talk with each other, find information online and think they know what they need."
"I go to the Canadian hospital," says Shadi, a Lebanese resident of Dubai. "All my colleagues are going there, because one of them had a good experience and told us about it."
"I always prefer a male doctor," explains Kinana, a Syrian resident of Dubai. In my opinion male doctors are more capable of handling the job.
In many cases nationality plays a role; people tend to opt for a doctor with the same origins as their own. "Most of my patients are Indian," admits dr. Natan, an Indian pediatrician. "That's how it goes here; people put more trust in doctors with the same nationality as their own."
However, in neither of these cases do the actual qualifications of a doctor matter, notes John. "This is because that kind of information is mostly unavailable here."
"When you have an ailment in your home country, you probably go to a general practitioner. This is often somebody that you know, and who your family has relied on for years.
"This general practitioner might be able to help you, but in any other case refers to you a specialist. You rely on this general practitioner as a basic source of reference."
According to John, it is the general practitioner that is missing in the UAE. "The majority of health care providers are specialists. Sometimes people do not even know what kind of specialization they require, and they will be sent back and forth before they receive any treatment."
Luckily, there are some initiatives that have led to improvement in the available information about health care providers.
"The introduction of health care insurance has played a major role in the development of available information," explains John. "Health care insurance companies apply guidelines for health care facilitators to be registered in their database, and over the years they have become more selective.
Furthermore, people opt for certain health care facilitators because these are covered by their health insurance.
However, John believes that financial motivations play only a minor role in the decision for a certain health care facility. "If you need a good doctor, you will not mind paying for it, right?"
Mass campaigns targeting the public to raise awareness about increasingly alarming health problems such as diabetes, obesity or autism, in addition to recently set up mobile doctors that can be consulted at any point of time are other initiatives that help to direct people into taking the right decision.
However, personal consultation of a trusted general practitioner is most favorable, believes John.
"Eventually, everybody wants to feel comfortable when seeking help for a health problem, and this comfort is most likely acquired by somebody you know."
[Image via Shutterstock]